Kayaks are a growing trend in the world of fishing, offering anglers an inexpensive and fun way to venture out beyond the shore.
Before manufacturers started designing kayaks specifically for fishing, it required quite a bit of skill and practice to get the hang of snagging fish without tipping over. Modern fishing kayaks, however, are designed for stability. Many are so stable, in fact, they allow the user to fish while standing up!
As with any vessel, though, fishing kayaks aren’t a one-size-fits-all product. The hull shape, length, and width vary, and you’ll need to choose the right one for you. Thin, longer models are better for long journeys (called “touring”), because they require less effort to paddle. Wider models are usually more stable, but aren’t as fast or easy to paddle.
With that in mind, there are many that perform well across all categories. They’re notable for their broad appeal, versatility, and unique features. We’ve found the best fishing kayaks on the market right now, and weighed their strengths against their weaknesses.
Keep reading to find out the winners:
Best on a Budget
Top Fishing Kayaks Reviews: The Best for Rivers and Oceans
1. Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14
The Malibu Kayak Stealth 14 comes packed with tons of useful features for today’s fishermen, but it truly shines in terms of stability and cargo space.
The Stealth is 14 feet, 4 inches long, and 32 inches at its widest point. The hull shape is better suited for stability, but users say the Stealth tracks well and is relatively easy to paddle. It’s equally at home in rivers, flat lakes, and the choppy surf, according to owners.
As mentioned before, the Stealth 14 comes with lots of space for anglers to store their gear. There’s a Gator hatch in the bow that also doubles as a seat for little ones, and a bungeed well at the stern that can hold a 5 gallon bait bucket.
One of the coolest features of the Stealth 14 is the patented “live bait tank” in the center. This container has a plug that lets in water to filter in and flush out, allowing the fisherman to store live bait in the console. Alternatively, you can leave the plug in and use the center container as another water-tight storage space.
As a testament to this model’s stability, users can comfortably stand on the casting platform of this one. While many fishing kayaks compromise a great deal of speed and maneuverability for stability, owners claim that this one finds a solid middle ground. It has superb stability, but it still cuts right through the water and turns easily. That makes it a much more navigable choice than many clunkier fishing models.
Reviewers were also big fans of the amount of gear they could pack into the Stealth. The ample storage space means anglers no longer have to pick which equipment to bring, and what to leave behind. It has ports on both sides for storing supplies, gear, tools and snacks.
The “live bait” console is another very popular feature, and reviewers say it also makes a great cooler. You can fill it with water or dirt for live bait, or with ice for keeping drinks onboard without having to haul an external cooler.
Both experts and beginners love the Malibu Stealth. The stability makes it easy to get the hang of, but the quality means that beginners may never need to purchase another.
A few users noted that the cargo hatches had a tendency to leak. Apparently, this is an issue with the older models that Malibu fixed, and many of these complaints came before the update.
However, a handful of reviewers stated their hatches still leaked after the update. Complaints were few and far between, but still worth noting. Luckily, Malibu offers a lifetime warranty on the Stealth 14.
The vast majority of users, whether they were experts or first-timers, give this model a perfect or near-perfect rating. The Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14 is our top pick for its solid balance of price and performance, exceptional stability, ample storage space and many useful extra features.
Whether you’re a beginner looking for a high-quality kayak with an easy learning curve, or a professional looking for a great all-around fishing model to take your weekends on the water to the next level, you’ll be happy that you bought the Stealth 14.
2. Hobie Mirage Outback
If you’re looking to invest more of your funds in your fishing kayak, our favorite high-end model is the Hobie Mirage Outback.
What makes this one truly interesting is its “Hobie Mirage Drive”—a unique pedaling feature not seen in many other models. While the Mirage Outback can be paddled like any other fishing kayak, users can also opt to use a set of pedals located in front of the seat to steer and move around. This leaves your hands free for fishing.
At 33 inches wide, the Mirage Outback is also very stable, and is most at home in large bodies of water like lakes. It also comes with a retractable rudder for better tracking and maneuverability.
The Mirage Outback also comes packed with tons of excellent features, including rod holders, a gear bucket and a cargo area. If you feel like changing up your boating routine a bit, the Mirage Outback also comes with a sail mount.
While the thought of pedals on a kayak might conjure up visions of slow-moving and cumbersome paddle boats, almost all reviewers were big fans of the MirageDrive feature. Owners assert that the MirageDrive is a speedy and convenient way to get around that allowed them to keep their hands free for fishing. After all, you can hardly cast a line with a paddle in your hands! The pedals make this one an excellent choice for people who want to fish a river without drifting steadily downstream. You can pedal yourself in place while you fish. Previous buyers said the pedals are also a more convenient way to move against high winds.
The seat on this model is another widely praised feature. It’s adjustable, allowing users to set the most ergonomic position for paddling or pedaling. The seat also has lumbar support—great news for fishermen with bad backs. It’s a much more comfortable design than other models at this price, as well as more expensive options.
As with the Stealth 14, reviewers of the Mirage Outback noted the stability of this one, which they say can handle currents and wakes with ease.
Owners also love the amount of accessible cargo that the Outback provides. With pockets, rod holders and storage space, this model allows you to bring all the gear you need for the ride. It’s even wider than the Stealth 14, and has all sorts of different storage options. There are cupholders of different sizes, cubbies on the top of the hull, bungee pockets, and some additional hatches throughout the body. You’ll also have the rear well and long running shelves for general storage.
The price of this model will likely be the main drawback for customers. Though few owners regret the purchase, the Mirage Outback is by no means an inexpensive model.
For some, the non-traditional pedaling option may not be appealing.
The Mirage Outback is on the heavier side, and paddling long distances will become a chore. The weight also makes it more difficult to move on land by yourself, so some kayakers may need to enlist the help of a friend .
One of the most interesting high-end kayaks around, nearly every reviewer was happy with their purchase of the Hobie Mirage Outback. This kayak is fast, stable, and allows anglers to fish on the go without the help of an engine.
It may not be for everyone, but for expert anglers looking to maximize their performance on their next kayak trip, the Mirage Outback is absolutely worth a look.
3. Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem
The sturdy, balanced Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem kayak is our favorite fishing kayak on a budget. The simple and stable design of this kayak is perfect for beginners and recreational anglers.
The Sport Fisher is a shorter tandem kayak that can hold up to three people, though it can be paddled by a single person. The seats are higher up off the water than other kayaks, allowing users to stay drier and more comfortable out on the water.
The short, wide design of the Sport Fisher is designed for maximum stability, allowing anglers to stand up while they cast or sit sidesaddle.
It comes with padded backrests, 3 rod holders and a 6 inch storage hatch. The Sport Fishers also features paddle clips and cradles for when you aren’t paddling.
The stable and sturdy Sport Fisher is ideal for less experienced kayakers—steady enough to not tip over, and tough enough to handle being scraped against rocks and other hazards.
It’s also sold at an entry-price point, which is another factor attractive to first-time kayakers.
Families will also appreciate a safe, multi-person kayak for their children to enjoy.
The stability isn’t just ideal for beginners and families with little ones, however. Any angler, experienced or otherwise, will enjoy being able to stand up in their fishing kayak. Although many fishing kayaks allow the user to stand up, that level of stability is difficult to come by within the entry-level price bracket.
Many heavier owners also recommend this kayak. With a weight capacity of 500 pounds, the Sport Fisher accommodates a variety of body types with comfort and ease. Plus, it stays very steady with multiple people onboard.
The Sport Fisher is a pretty heavy kayak—-roughly 80 pounds when empty—which will make it difficult for many users to carry alone. This shortcoming is no doubt a side effect of the sturdy build of the kayak, so the weight of this model is something of tradeoff.
Additionally, the design of the Sport Fisher isn’t built for speed or tracking. The Sport Fisher is best suited for bodies of flat water or slow-moving currents, and will not perform well as a touring kayak. Thus, if you’re planning to make long trips with your next kayak, you may want to look at a slimmer model.
Even though it’s not the fastest or most feature-heavy kayak, the Sport Fisher is a great value worth considering. It’s earned high praise among owners for its great stability, comfortable seating, and sturdy build.
It’s one of the best-selling (and highest rated) fishing kayaks on Amazon for its solid combination of price and quality. We strongly recommend this model to kayakers on a budget, beginners, and families who would like to take their children out on the water.
Which Fishing Kayak is Perfect for You?
Our Top Pick for most folks offers a lot of value to beginners and expert kayakers alike. The Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14 is roomy, stable, and still reasonably affordable. If you’re a typical boater looking for a stable, versatile fishing kayak with lots of available space, we recommend the Stealth 14.
Buyers with a bigger budget, however, should check out the Hobie Mirage Outback. The MirageDrive makes fishing on the go a breeze, and the ample storage space, speed, and stability of this kayak makes it a favorite of many experienced anglers. It improves on nearly every aspect of the Malibu, but it does cost significantly more. We don’t recommend it to casual anglers. This one’s a better choice for someone who will get a lot of use out of it.
Families, beginners, and any shopper on a budget should check out the low-cost, high-quality Lifetime Sport Fisher. The Sport Fisher isn’t the fastest kayak on the market, but its low price and sturdy, stable design has made it one of the most popular kayaks on Amazon. It’s a very affordable choice for folks who don’t go out on the water every day, but want something of good quality for the occasional day trip. We don’t recommend it for longer jaunts, though, since it’s not very streamlined. Also, it doesn’t have as much storage space as our other recommendations.
If you’re looking for more kayaks that are great for fishing and recreation, check out the Amazon best sellers page for fishing kayaks! You can also visit our homepage for more of our top kayak reviews.